Dear Men, Being Creepy is Sexual HarassmentPosted: November 7, 2012
Have you ever made a sexual comment to a woman and were confused about why it was offensive to her? Admittedly, it’s rare that I come across a man who doesn’t properly understand when making sexual comments about a woman to her face is inappropriate, but unfortunately I find myself living with one these men at the moment. Although he has agreed not to do it again, he does not feel his comments were inappropriate.
It appears my new male roommate is a bit confused about the meaning of sexual harassment. He made some comments about “enjoying the view” of my body after I’d only lived with him for a few days, which was quite upsetting to me. I did my best to explain to him why what he did was harassment, and he disagreed with me. He said it was all a matter of perception. I said he could look up the definition of the term on the Internet. So which is it?
I guess the real question is, at what point does it actually become appropriate to make sexual comments to a woman you’ve recently met? Answer: Once you’ve reached a certain level of intimacy, which must include her clearly signaling sexual interest to you! That means that if you misinterpret her signals and think that she likes you when she doesn’t, she’s going to be very creeped out by your comments. The safest bet is to come right out and ask her if she’s interested in a date, and don’t be vague about it; anything else is a gamble.
The whole creep thing was once very well explained by Joseph Maldonaldo of IAM Center as one person moving too fast down a continuum of relating between two people. On one end are the complete strangers; on the other are intimate partners or friends. Moving along the continuum takes time and a willingness of both parties to move the relationship in that direction. To move too quickly along is to be a creep, literally creeping along the continuum to a point where the other party isn’t comfortable. It’s forcing one’s way past another person’s boundary with no regard for that person’s comfort. Sexual harassment is, in the general sense, being a creep. It means making sexual comments that would only be acceptable if you and the other person were further down the continuum, except that you are not. And after only knowing me for a few days in the context of being roommates, we are still at the level of acquaintance.
I am so grateful that most of you get this, no explanation necessary, but I guess I just needed to vent about how frustrating this can be. He actually said to me, “I thought you were the fun type,” as an excuse for saying what he said. So I guess he is right that it is a matter of perception, the problem is that his perception of our “relationship” was way off, and unfortunately I now perceive him as a creep and he perceives me as uptight. I’m just so disappointed in both of us for not being able to communicate about this better. Thanks for listening.